A few months back, I started getting weird abdominal pain once in a while. It would start off with stomach cramping, and then proceed to spread around to my back, where it would hurt outrageously for 20-40 minutes, and then stop very abruptly. Since the incidents were pretty infrequent, I ignored them for a while, but finally got off my kiester to go to the doctor and have them checked out.

My doctor’s first suspicion (which mirrored that of [Mom McMains->]) was that I might have some gall bladder issues. He sent me off for blood work, which came back normal, and an ultrasound, which showed a bunch of tiny gallstones. The recommended treatment? Gall bladder removal.

The gall bladder is a small, hollow organ that stores bile from the liver. Bile is used to metabolize fats, and when you eat a big or especially fatty meal, the gall bladder contracts and squeezes out this emergency backup supply of bile to help your body deal with the influx of fat. Apparently most people’s livers can pump out enough bile quickly enough that the gall bladder isn’t essential, and can be removed with very minimal, if any, effect on one’s metabolism.

I thought it rather curious that I would get gallstones. Evidently, the high-risk group for gall bladder disease is fat, sixty year old Hispanic women — a demographic I fall squarely outside of. But I have little doubt no that the diagnosis was correct, as my most recent attacks occurred after having a big plate of nachos or greasy pepperoni pizza for dinner. (Ironically, I had an attack at Maggie’s birthday party before I knew what the cause was, and tried to help myself feel better by scarfing down as many pieces of Chuck E. Cheese pizza as I could lay hands on.)

My surgery is scheduled for December 19. (The doctor’s office wanted to schedule it for the 16th originally, but I figured spending my wife’s birthday in the hospital would be impolitic.) While gall bladder surgery used to be more of an ordeal, the procedure is now generally done laproscopically, which means that instead of cutting your abdominal wall wide open, the surgeon instead makes several small incisions, and works a camera and his tools in through those small holes. As a result, recovery time is greatly reduced.

I was pretty nervous about the surgery at first, but my surgeon has lots of experience with this kind of work (which is now the most commonly performed procedure in the United States), and did a fine job of explaining what he’ll be doing. (His answering service, however, sucks.) Further, [Chris->] assures me that general anesthesia is safer than driving to the hospital to get it.

Until then, I’m carefully avoiding fried foods, cheese-heavy dishes, and drinking olive oil. I’ll post an update on this after the surgery’s complete, as there won’t be much more action in the interim. You can read more about gallstones here.